Will 'Eclipse' top 'New Moon' at boxoffice?

VIDEO: Third 'Twilight' film eyes $150 mil six-day opening

This week's boxoffice should skyrocket as two summer sizzlers launch midweek ahead of the long Independence Day weekend amid fervid enthusiasm from their respective fan bases.

Summit's "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" bows at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday in more than 4,000 locations, with the vampire-romance threequel likely to sink its teeth into more than $150 million in domestic coin through Monday. Just during the weekend, a four-day domestic frame with Independence Day falling on Sunday, the fanged franchise's latest installment should ring up $85 million or so from a record 4,416 theaters.

That would be a bloody good three-day performance, though not as big as the opening weekend of the first "Twilight" sequel.

"The Twilight Saga: New Moon" bowed with $142.8 million in November en route to $296.6 million in total U.S. and Canadian coin. The original "Twilight" unspooled in November 2008 with $69.6 million and wrapped with $192.8 million domestically.

On the other hand, a fairer comparison with the first-weekend tally for "New Moon" might be coin that "Eclipse" registers between Wednesday and Friday, its first three days in release. But good luck guessing what that might be.

"The advance ticket sales are as good as for 'New Moon,' and certainly the tracking data is," Summit distribution topper Richie Fay said Tuesday. "But the real question is whether the moviegoers feel they need to catch the movie the first day or two or maybe think they can wait until the weekend. It's really difficult to say how the grosses will come in."

Also this session, Paramount debuts the M. Night Shyamalan-helmed 3D family adventure "The Last Airbender," which should skew male as "Eclipse" preoccupies younger females.

Based on the 2005-08 Nickelodeon animated kids series, "Avatar: The Last Airbender," the live-action movie was produced in 2D and converted to 3D to exploit audience enthusiasm for the format. Bowing on Thursday, "Airbender" will include at least 2,000 3D screens among its more than 3,000 total engagements and is forecast to fetch as much as $50 million through Monday.

The "Airbender" cast includes Jackson Rathbone, who also appears in "Eclipse" and other "Twilight" pics. The estimated production costs totaled $150 million.

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"Eclipse" was directed by David Slade ("30 Days of Night") and has Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart reprising their respective roles of vampire, werewolf and anguished love interest.

In a franchise first, "Eclipse" will play in 193 domestic Imax locations and 11 more overseas.

"It will be interesting to see how the Imax audience responds," Fay said.

"Eclipse" -- which totes a relatively modest $60 million negative cost -- also bows this week in 41 international territories, including several larger markets such as Russia, Italy, Spain and Mexico. "Airbender" unspools in foreign markets during July and August.

Meanwhile, Disney/Pixar's 3D threequel "Toy Story 3" is likely to grab the weekend's bronze medal with upward of $35 million in its third session.

Industrywide, the session will be compared with last year's $162.5 million Fourth of July weekend. The three-day holiday frame was topped by the $41.7 million first-weekend tally for Fox's 3D threequel "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs."
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